A leading academic analyst of the automotive industry has died.
David Garel Rhys was born in February 1940 and educated at Ystalyfera Grammar School before going on to study economics at what was then the University College of Wales, Swansea (1963). He went on to a master’s at the University of Birmingham, where he specialised in transport economics and produced a dissertation on “The economics of the British commercial vehicle industry 1945-1966”.
After a series of academic posts at the University of Hull (1965-70), Professor Rhys began his long career at what is now Cardiff University. He started as a lecturer and then senior lecturer in economics (1971-84) before being appointed SMMT professor of motor industry economics.
This position was initially attached to University College, Cardiff (1984-88) and then transferred to Cardiff Business School, where Professor Rhys served as head of economics from 1988 to 1999. Professor Rhys played a crucial role in merging the two degree programmes when University College and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology joined forces in 1988 to become Cardiff University. He retired as professor emeritus in economics in 2005.
With publications such as The Motor Industry in the European Community (1989), Professor Rhys helped to establish the business school as a leading research hub, a position bolstered by his setting up of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research, where he remained as director until his death. He served as a special adviser to the expenditure committee of the House of Commons during its investigation into Chrysler UK; the parliamentary select committee looking into the economics of Concorde, Rolls-Royce, British Leyland and the privatisation of Jaguar; and the House of Lords select committee inquiry into the motor industry’s distribution system and its impact on product prices. He was also in regular demand from journalists and broadcasters seeking incisive commentary on stories relating to the motor industry.
Robert McNabb, former head of Cardiff Business School, praised Professor Rhys for his “encyclopedic knowledge of the industry” and for “a sharp analytical mind combined with eloquence, enthusiasm and an infectious sense of humour”, which “characterised someone whose work had a significant impact not just in terms of his academic contributions but also to a number of major areas of government and organisational decision-making”.
Professor Rhys was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 for services to the motor industry and education and became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007. He died on 21 February and is survived by his wife Mavis and their three children.